Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Suez Canal attack by al-Qaida blew Irish cigarette smuggling ring

The container of cigarettes was followed from Dublin Port and seized outside Dundalk
The container of cigarettes was followed from Dublin Port and seized outside Dundalk

The smuggler whose container of cigarettes was hit by a rocket fired by al-Qaida on the Suez Canal has become the number one target for gardai.

Investigations have shown that the man, in his mid-40s, has become one of Ireland's richest smugglers, supplying the illicit market on both sides of the border. He has close ties to the south Armagh IRA.

He has paid no tax in years, but gardai have discovered that he has a string of commercial properties with front businesses and earlier this year bought 100 acres of potential development land for over €1m (£850,000).

He came to the full attention of gardai in September after they were alerted by Interpol about the container that had been hit when al-Qaida members fired two rockets at the giant cargo ship, Asia Cosco, as it sailed up the Suez Canal on August 31.

One of the rockets struck the Louth man's container which, on the ship's manifest, was recorded as containing furniture. On inspection, it was found to contain cigarettes packed in wooden cases.

A satellite tracker was placed in the container and it was followed from Dublin Port and seized outside Dundalk. Four men were arrested, but no charges have been brought to date.

Irish Customs said the cigarettes had a street value of €4.3m (£3.7m).

The cigarettes are bought in Vietnam or the Philippines for as little as 20c (17p) a packet.

The Louth man's associates include men close to the IRA leadership in south Armagh and north Louth.

The man now faces assets seizures and the serving of a major tax bill.

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